MRSA infections may be on the decline

It s no secret that staph infections resistant to multiple antibiotics have become a major problem in hospitals over the past few decades. But such infections contracted outside of a medical setting have also been problematic: The rate of community-onset methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) peaked at 62 percent of the population in 2006. However, the increased awareness of this problem may finally have had some impact. A new study, published in JAMA, has identified a decline in the rate of MRSA infections among the over 9 million military personnel (both active-duty and non-active) it observed.

Researchers led by Dr. Michael Landrum at the San Antonio Military Medical Center found that, between 2005 and 2010, there was a decline in the rate of both community-onset and hospital-onset MRSA. Furthermore, the proportion of community-onset skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) due to MRSA also declined. From its peak in 2006, the rate of those community onset infections SSTIs decreased by 10 percent.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross is encouraged by the latest findings. Physicians and other health care professionals seem finally to be placing greater emphasis on improving hygienic environments in the hospital setting, he says. It has been estimated that hospital infections including those from MRSA may have been responsible for 90,000 deaths a year, so it s good to see that preventive measures are being taken to reduce the number of lives lost to hospital-onset bacterial infections.

Despite the latest good news, however, it s important to note that hospital hygiene still needs to be more seriously addressed. The study authors noted that, although the number of MRSA infections appears to be on the decline, the burden of MRSA and SSTIs remains substantial, and there are several other stubborn antibiotic-resistant infectious bugs to be dealt with.